CPD’s Response to Kareem Hunt Assault Allegations Raises Several Concerns
In February 2018, at a Cleveland hotel and apartment building, a Good Samaritan called 911 on behalf of a woman who had been assaulted by former Kansas City Chief’s running back Kareem Hunt. The incident was caught on the building’s security cameras, and is not disputed. However, the propriety of the Cleveland Police Department’s response is. It appears the CPD officers did not conduct a thorough investigation, Hunt was not arrested, and the Good Samaritan who filmed the encounter was arrested and charged.
Unfortunately, this type of incident is not rare, and it raises many concerns. Was this incident exemplary of how CPD handle female victim’s allegations of violence? Why did the CPD arrest a man for lawful conduct? And was this how CPD respond to allegations against national and local celebrities?
Did CPD Not Take the Woman’s Allegations Seriously?
Based on the building’s video and the CPD officers’ body cameras, it appears the officers did very little to assist the female victim and properly investigate the allegations against Hunt. Witnesses were not identified or followed up with. The officers notified Hunt and his friends that they had the option to record the exchange or not, demonstrating that they were willing to turn off their body cameras. They engaged with Hunt and his companions more than with the victim. It also is clear that the police did not request or watch the surveillance footage of the assault. Hunt was not arrested and has not been charged with assault despite the footage.
Violence Against Women Is a Common Problem
The statistics about violence against women are stunning, yet there is genuine concern that local police departments like CPD are not responding appropriately to complaints made by female victims.
- 1 in 4 women experience intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence, and/or stalking in their lives compared to 1 in 9 men, according to resources published by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).
- 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has been raped in their lifetime compared to 1 in 71 men.
- A study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found more than half of female homicide victims were killed by a current or former male intimate partner between 2003 and 2014.
To make matters worse, statistics regarding violence toward women are likely low. Many instances of sexual and physical violence toward women go unreported. Additionally, these statistics only look at intimate partner violence, in other words, domestic abuse. Yet women face the threat of physical violence, sexual violence, and stalking from men they do not know or have met briefly.
All of this is to say that law enforcement agencies are aware—or should be aware—that violence against women is endemic. So why are agencies, like the CPD, not being more proactive to calls like the recent assault allegations against Hunt?
CPD’s History of Not Taking Violence Against Women Seriously
The real problem may be that the CPD fails to take violence against women seriously. Earlier this year the city entered a $1 million settlement with six families who had sued, alleging that CPD failed to do more to get serial killer Anthony Sowell off the streets. Sowell has been arrested for violence against women, but the families allege that not enough was done about it. The FBI investigated the conduct and provided suggested reforms to a mayoral commission.
You Have the Right to Record Police in Public
A second issue, which is particularly concerning to defense attorneys, is that the bystander, Derek Szeto, who encountered the victim of the assault and called 911 on her behalf was arrested that night. After calling 911, he waited in the area. As the police arrived and began speaking with the other parties, Szeto filmed the encounter.
An officer told Szeto he had to have permission to film the encounter and then asked for Szeto’s phone. On the bodycam footage, the officer stated “Let me see your phone, let me see your phone. I asked you nicely.” When Szeto refused, the officer responded: “We don’t need a warrant.” When Szeto refused again, he was arrested.
Video recording police conduct has become a way for citizens to not only try to protect themselves, but also uncover police misconduct. It is understandably uncomfortable for the police. However, recording police officers performing duties in public is protected by the First Amendment, according to many federal courts. This right was first solidified in a case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Glik v. Cunniffe. It has since been agreed upon by the Third, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits Courts, which cover over half the country.
If you recorded the police working in public, you are not obligated to delete you video or hand over your phone. You have the right to refuse, like Szeto did.
Do the Police Give Celebrities a Pass?
The third concern raised in Hunt’s circumstances is whether the police were swayed by his celebrity status. Did the CPD officers conduct a cursory investigation because they were aware of Hunt’s status in the NFL? Did the police ignore a women’s valid complaint of assault in favor of protecting a celebrity athlete’s reputation and career?
When the police respond to a complaint, they should investigate thoroughly and without bias. Though, the more accurate way to say this is that the police should investigate with an awareness of their potential bias toward others in regard to their gender, gender identity, race, religion, and other factors. It is essential for the police to put aside such biases to ensure evidence is gathered and persevered and that actual offenders are apprehended.
Have You Been Arrested Following Police Misconduct?
If you have been arrested in Cleveland following unlawful police activity, such as for video recording officers in public, contact The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC at 216-533-9533 right away.